Locals: Prison plan likely to be a tough sell

Published 3:00 am Friday, February 10, 2017

Gov. Robert Bentley gave his “State of the State” address on Tuesday evening on the opening day of the legislative session.

One of the biggest questions Bentley’s legislative agenda answered was in regards to the State’s prison system.

Alabama Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Troy, told the Pike County Republican Women weeks ago that the $800 million plan to consolidate the state’s prison system into four large prisons may not be considered until a special session.

Bentley’s address, however, points to the prison bill being considered in the regular session, which Holley said the legislature requested of the governor.

Donna Horn, chair of the Pike County Republican Party, said that the legislation will face a tough road.

“I think that will be a tough sell,” Horn said. “It didn’t go last time and I don’t really think its going to go this time.”

Horn said she was also surprised not to hear anything about raises for state employees during the governor’s address.

Bentley also prioritized the State’s pre-kindergarten funding program and floated the idea of expanding the program to include Kindergarten three and four programs and eventually all the way up to third grade.

“Each year since I’ve been Governor we have steadily increased funding for Pre-K, we’ve expanded classrooms and most importantly we’ve opened the door to achievement for Alabama’s children.

“There is no denying the positive results of children who attend a First Class Pre-K. Four-year-olds are building on a firm foundation, demonstrating higher achievement at higher grade levels…

“We studied four year olds when they first enrolled in Pre-K and again when they completed their year. We found that students at the beginning of the year scored below ‘widely held expectations’ for school readiness. By the time they completed Pre-K, over 90 percent were meeting or exceeding the expectations across the board.”

Two Pike County schools New Life Christian Academy (NLCA) and Pike County Elementary School (PCES), benefitted from the program just last year. NLCA received $82,000 in grant money and PCES received $120,000.

Horn said that continuing and expanding the program is an important part of the session.

“I think that is extremely important and I would encourage them to look strongly at that,” Horn said. “The better education our children have, the better future they’re going to have.”

Bentley also reinforced earlier statements that the State will not support sanctuary cities and talked about issues such as opioid abuse affecting the state.

Another big announcement from Bentley was the consideration of eliminating sales tax on groceries, something that is already done by 38 other states including neighbors Florida, Georgia and Louisiana. Alabama is one of only five states that fully taxes food items.